The Rover Boys in the Air/Chapter 6
TWO OLD ENEMIES
"Josiah Crabtree!" came simultaneously from Dick and Sam Rover.
"Yes," returned Tom.
"How can he be here, in this out-of-the-way place?" demanded Sam.
"You must be mistaken, Tom," came from the eldest Rover boy. "Old Crabtree must be around Cedarville or in Ithaca. He would have no call to come to a place like this."
"Did you say Josiah Crabtree?" questioned Peter Marley, curiously. All had come to a halt on their horses.
"Yes," returned Tom quickly. "Do you know him?"
"I used to know him fact is, he once stopped at my place to git a ride when he was a-visitin' thet old mill."
"Then he visits the mill!" exclaimed Dick. "Tom, you must have been right."
"But why does he come here?" questioned Sam.
"Why as near as I know, some relative o' his'n used to have an interest in the lumber company as run the mill," replied the farmer. "It was a man named Foxwell. He's dead now. Maybe he left his share o' the place to this man Crabtree. He was a teacher, wasn't he?"
"He was, years ago. Since then he has been a jailbird," answered Tom.
"Yes, he was in jail for a number of years—and since he has been out he has been trying his best to make trouble for us and for some of our friends," went on Tom. "Come on, let's go after him, instead of talking," he added, as he dismounted.
"That's the talk!" cried Sam. "The biplane can wait."
Dick was as willing as his brothers to go after the former teacher of Putnam Hall, and leaving the farmer to take care of the horses, all three ran up to the door of the old mill. It was unlocked, and one of the hinges was broken, and it was an easy matter for them to push their way into the building.
"Do you think Tad Sobber is with old Crabtree?" asked Sam, in a low voice.
"It may be—since they were together when the girls saw them," returned Dick.
"We ought to have armed ourselves," put in Tom. The boys had no weapons of any kind.
"Here are some old barrel staves," said Tom. "They are better than nothing." And he picked up a stave and his brothers followed suit.
With caution the three Rover boys advanced through the old mill, which, because of the closed doors and dirty windows, was a gloomy place in spite of the brightness of the day outside. All listened intently, but not a sound reached their ears, excepting Mr. Marley's voice as he talked to the restless horses.
"Supposing I call to him?" suggested Dick.
"It can't do any harm," answered Sam.
"Hello, Mr. Crabtree!" sang out Tom, without waiting for his brother. "Where are you? Why don't you show yourself?"
All waited after this call. But no reply came back, and then Dick and Sam called.
"He's a bit bashful," was Tom's grinning comment. "Wants to be hauled out by the coattails, I guess. Come on, we'll soon locate him," and he started forward.
"Be careful, Tom!" warned his elder brother. "He may set a trap for you! You know he and Sobber are not to be trusted."
"I've got my eyes open," answered the fun-loving Rover sturdily.
With the barrel staves in hand, the three Rover boys advanced further and further into the old mill, going from one room to another. Occasionally they stumbled over bits of lumber and piles of sawdust, for when the place had been shut down no attempt had been made to clean up. Even some of the machinery had been left and this was now so rusted that it was practically unfit for use.
"Say, Mr. Crabtree, why don't you show yourself?" called out Dick. "Are you afraid?"
"You get out of here!" came the unexpected answer, from a small toolroom, the door to which was split but tightly closed. "You Rovers have no right on this property!"
The boys recognized the harsh and dictatorial voice of Josiah Crabtree,—less pleasant now than it ever had been. They saw the former teacher glaring at them from the split in the toolroom door.
"Mr. Crabtree, come out here and let us talk to you," said Dick, quietly but firmly.
"I don't want to talk to you—I want you to leave these premises," snarled the man.
"Why should we leave?" asked Tom.
"Because this is my property."
"Your property?" cried Sam. "How so?"
"It was left to me by a distant relative. I won't have you on the place."
"Mr. Crabtree, do you know that we can have you arrested?" said Dick, sharply.
"Arrested? What for?"
"For the abduction of Mrs. Stanhope."
"I didn't abduct her—she went along of her own free will—I can prove it."
"You know that statement is false. You carried her off against her will and did what you could to hypnotize her into marrying you. Mr. Crabtree, you are a villain, and you ought to be returned to the prison from which you came."
"Don't you dare to talk to me like that! Don't you dare!" fairly shrieked Josiah Crabtree. "I know my rights, and some day I'll have the law on you boys! You are responsible for my being sent to prison, and but for you Mrs. Stanhope would have married me long ago. Now I want you to leave these premises, and don't you dare to come back."
"Is Tad Sobber with you?" asked Tom.
"I am not here to answer questions, Tom Rover. I want to leave, and at once."
"Mr. Crabtree, you listen to me," said Dick, stepping closer to the crack in the door. "We are not afraid of you, and we want you and Tad Sobber to know it. Were it not for the unpleasant publicity for Mrs. Stanhope and her daughter, we'd have you in the lock-up inside of twenty-four hours. We understand that you and Sobber have been threatening the Stanhopes and the Lanings again, and also threatening us. Now these threats have got to stop, and you have got to behave If you don't behave yourself we are going to make it our business to see that you are arrested, and we'll do our level best to have you placed behind the bars for a long term of years."
"I—I—will—er——" stammered the former teacher of Putnam Hall. He did not know how to proceed.
"Ah, don't you get scared!" came in a low voice from inside the toolroom. "You know what the Rovers are."
"It must be Tad Sobber!" cried Tom. "Sobber, if you are in there why don't you show yourself? Are you scared?"
"Of course he is scared," put in Sam.
"I'm not scared!" roared the bullying voice of the youth who had claimed the fortune from Treasure Isle. "I am not scared and you know it."
"So you are really there, Sobber," put in Dick. "I thought as much. Well, you heard what I said to Crabtree. It applies to you as well."
"Bah, Dick Rover, you can't scare me!" returned Tad Sobber savagely. "Just now you think you are on top. But wait, that's all. That treasure belongs to me and I mean to have it. And I mean to square up for the way you have treated me, too."
"Are you two going to settle down here?" asked Sam, just for something to say.
"That is none of your business," answered Josiah Crabtree. "Now I want you to leave."
"Sobber, what has become of Jerry Koswell and Bart Larkspur?" asked Dick, wishing to know something of those former good-for-nothing students of Brill College.
"Never you mind what has become of them," answered Sobber. "But don't think you have seen the last of them, Dick Rover. They haven't forgotten how you treated them on Chesoque Island and elsewhere, and they mean to even up that score."
"Are they here with you?"
"No. But I'm going to keep in touch with them, and some day we—— But never mind now. Just you wait, that's all!" finished Tad Sobber, meaningly.
"You'll try to play us foul,—just as you tried in the past," said Dick. "Very well, I'll remember that, Sobber. And you remember what I told you. The next time there is trouble we'll fight it out to the bitter end."
There was a moment of silence.
"I want you to go away," said Josiah Crabtree, and there was just a trace of nervousness in his tones. Evidently Dick's firm words had had some effect.
"We are going," answered Dick. "Both of you remember what I said." And then he motioned to his brothers; and all three left the old mill.
"Well, did ye find the feller ye was after?" queried Peter Marley, as the boys came out to where he stood with the horses.
"We did," answered Dick, and nudged his brothers, to keep them quiet. "It's Josiah Crabtree all right. And we had quite a talk with him."
"Wot's he going to do here?"
"He says it is his property left to him by a distant relative. He ordered us away."
"Must have been Foxwell left him the place. Is he going to start the mill up ag'in?"
"He didn't say."
"If he's a jailbird I'll hate to see him in these parts," went on the farmer soberly.
"Well, it won't hurt you to keep an eye on him, Mr. Marley," answered Dick, and then, struck with a sudden idea, he continued; "And if you see or hear anything wrong about him, will you do us the favor to let us know at once, over the telephone, or otherwise? I'll pay you for the calls."
"Sure I'll let you know if I hear anything."
"I might as well tell you that he is down on us and down on some of our friends, and he and a young fellow with him named Tad Sobber may try to play us foul in some way. So, if you hear of anything strange, let us know by all means."
"You can depend on it, I will," replied Peter Marley.
"And now to see if that really was the biplane!" cried Tom, when the party was once more on horseback. "Let us try to forget old Crabtree and Sobber. One trouble at a time is enough. If that was the flying machine, I hope she isn't damaged much," he added, wistfully, for he had hoped to get a good deal of sport out of sailing the Dartaway.
"Well, if that was the biplane, she must have landed in the river, and that would break the shock some," said Sam, hopefully.
"Yes, especially if she came down on a slant," added Dick. "Maybe she struck the water and scaled along like a clamshell."
Along the river they proceeded for quite a distance and then came to the spot that the farmer said was the ford.
"Not so very shallow either," was Dick's comment. "Mr. Marley, are you sure of the footing?"
"Yes, I've been across any number of times," was the answer. "I'll lead the way. Be careful, fer the rocks is slippery an' if a hoss goes down he might give ye a nasty tumble."
And then Peter Marley urged his steed into the river and one by one the Rover boys followed him.